Posts about Interaction design


Heavily Regulated Industries Need Goal-Directed Design

Working in the insurance industry, an industry saddled with stiff regulations, has several implications for the design team. Generally, this means submitting each page to an internal review process and then to every state for their approval. If after filing there are additional changes, re-submitting a particular webpage earns extra scrutiny, increasing the chance that edits will be necessary prior to launch. As a result, every A/B test, every possible change, must be thought out ahead of time, without proving it first in production. Otherwise, the changes must be filed all over again. Because of these challenges, our digital experience and design team has adopted Cooper’s Goal-Directed Design (GDD) approach. 

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Working in the insurance industry, an industry saddled with stiff regulations, has several implications for the design team. Because of these challenges, our digital experience and design team has adopted Cooper’s Goal-Directed Design (GDD) approach. 

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Stretching Google Material to make better desktop navigation

My revised “Single Artist” view for Google Music: it allows for better horizontal navigation across albums and artists 

a.k.a., Making Google Music (on desktop) more like iTunes 

a.a.k.a., Tweaking Google Material for broader data sets 

a.a.a.k.a., Google Music annoys me sometimes, so I drew up some fixes instead of just getting over it like I probably should

Original article posted on Medium.

I like Google Material. It’s a well-documented and thoughtful end-to-end visual/UI language that’s adaptable to a lot of consumer apps. It’s obviously a mobile-first UI language: the card-first patterns are highly tangible and tractable, and its navigation structures tend to be very vertical. Take, for example, Google Music’s navigation structure:

The current Google Music navigation structure, from library to song 

This highly “vertical” navigation structure tends to work well on mobile devices: you don’t have the space needed for persistent on-screen navigation, and (perhaps) mobile use cases trend towards finding a particular item rather than, browsing around. But when you apply this pattern to desktop, you see limitations: that’s a lot of navigating up and down (a version of “pogo sticking”) if you’re navigating across multiple categories… think, “I want to listen to something from my music library, but am not positive which artist/album/song I want to listen to yet.”

A sampling of Google Music’s current desktop screens (June 2016). Lots of white space 

On desktop, Google Music's simple, vertical navigation leads to lots of white space, heavy-handed photography, and "clicky" navigation.*

While the “browsing” scenario I described above isn’t necessarily common — in fact, Google's research may have found that users tend to look for something specific in the app, so that’s what it’s optimized for — browsing can still be accommodated. Just look at the classic (and current) iTunes app navigation: persistent, scrollable list menus with immediate selection and visual feedback.

*It’s puzzling that they don’t at least use back arrows on Desktop (as they do on mobile) to help the user go back up the navigation ladder. This leads to troubling “get me outta here!” moments.

An older version of iTunes (left), and a newer version (right, June 2016). Plenty of persistent navigation.

I wanted to emulate some of this on Google Music’s desktop site, using Material Design, without breaking Material’s established patterns. I think I partially succeeded by employing some “cheats” that Google has used on other Material products. I also spruced up some of the UI according to my own tastes (sorry, couldn’t help it).

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Using Google Music's Desktop app as an example, we try to improve the navigation of a Google product using only elements from the Google Material toolbox.  

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How much interface does your analytics product need?

Original article posted on Medium.

While working on a project earlier this year, an interesting tidbit emerged from research: users tended to have just a few simple needs when it came to accessing data. Given that the tool we were working on is pretty robust, the lightweight nature of the most common use cases was a surprise… there is more “tool” available than what is necessarily needed. 

This reflects a broader trend among analytics providers: there’s a popular interface-first reflex when it comes to building data products. We opt for flexibility over convenience, often attempting to satisfy all plausible use cases rather than optimizing for the most frequent ones. Here’s an outline of some analytics use-cases, addressed in a one-size-fits-all way:

The approach is, in a way, straightforward. Give the user access to the data. If they have a question, they can go to the interface and “tell” it what they need. They then digest the information, isolating some meaningful insight (hopefully) before disseminating the information to their peers, supervisors, or other stakeholders. 

The interface-first approach is capable of satisfying many use cases for end users. Analytics tools can be used for all sorts of purposes — from status updates to fact-finding to open-ended exploration — but it’s not unusual to see a user base rally around a few lightweight ones (hint: open-ended exploration is usually not among them). Let’s think through a simple use case: a gym owner wants to know if member attendance has changed this week, as weather has been especially nice. Here’s how that scenario looks for an interface-first analytics tool:

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Taking a look at different approaches to analytics products: interface as a "tool" vs technology as an "assistant." Inspired by research done in the field. 

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A Public Display of Interface

Graphic Design from the Collection, May 14–October 23, 2016, SFMOMA, Floor 6

The last time I visited SFMOMA was 3 years ago, just before they closed for a major expansion of the museum. I worked on an interface that had just won an interaction design award several months prior to my visit and was on a designer’s high, daydreaming as I walked through the museum, wondering, would a modern art museum, like SFMOMA ever feature the design of something like an interface? Maybe I could be part of that history, contributing to an innovative interface or at least one little icon. 


Amused by the idea that one day there could be an exhibition detailing the mode of interface style throughout the years, I imagined the possible exhibits celebrating a functional, digital aesthetic.

Consenting Affordances: Web vs. Desktop and their Lovechild, Mobile

Wistful Analog: Skeuomorphism and the Rise of Flatland

Extravagant Limitations: Evolution of the Application Icon

Window Shopping: The Armors of Netscape, Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome


Could something like a 16x16 icon be on display in a modern art museum? Would something so tiny and digital be considered too silly and insignificant to rest under the same roof as a Rauschenberg, O'Keefe, or Warhol? With the awakening of a new SFMOMA, the interface daydreaming stopped and revealed a new reality: the recognition of an artform whose infancy rivals that of Pop Art but until now has yet to be collected, to tell a new story, found on floor 6 in the exhibit: Typeface to Interface.

Typeface to Interface.

I was reunited with those interface exhibition dreams during the opening of the overwhelmingly airy and far-too-much-to-see-in-a-day new SFMOMA. The 170,000 square feet of exhibition space turns the museum into one of the largest art museums in the United States (larger than the New York MOMA and The Getty Center in Los Angeles) making SFMOMA one of the largest museums in the world specifically focusing on modern and contemporary art. 

The exhibit takes selected work from the museum's permanent graphic design collection (spanning as far back as 1950) and joins it with examples of graphic design that has shaped the development of the interface – our modern day means of visual communication. Posters, visual communication systems, and annual reports are interwoven with a variety of technology platforms: the desktop interface, the stylus, and the mobile touchscreen – the tools and methods we’ve used to communicate via the interface. Underlying all of this are the foundations of visual design and as a result an understanding of human behavior.

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With the awakening of a new SFMOMA, the interface daydreaming stopped and revealed a new reality: the recognition of an artform whose infancy rivals that of Pop Art but until now has yet to be collected, to tell a new story, found on floor 6 in the exhibit: Typeface to Interface. 

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The Secret to Giving Away Secrets

There’s a baker in San Francisco named Josey. He owns a popular bakery and coffee shop called The Mill. Josey’s bread is really good, but it’s also not cheap. Loaves sell for $7 and up. And they sell toast — with toppings like almond butter, cream cheese or house-made jam—for $4 a slice. This is a lot of money for toast, but it’s so good that people line up down the block to buy it. It is that good. 

Josey also wrote a cookbook teaching people new to breadmaking about how to make bread. He writes in an approachable, un-intimidating style. Joseys’ basic message:making bread is easy.  

In the same way Josey sells bread, and teaches people how to make bread—we do the same thing at the design consultancy where I work, Cooper. We sell our design services to clients. And as part of those projects, we also teach clients about design and our design process.

That sounds crazy.  

Why teach people how to design (or bake bread)? If you teach everyone how to design (or bake bread), then no one will buy your design services (or your bread). Well, the opposite actually is true.

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How design consulting is becoming more about teaching design (especially to non-designers)

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Dear College Seniors: Designing Your Career Search

Millions of college seniors will graduate in 2016, and many of them are looking for jobs, hoping to line something up before they graduate. Many of them want to break into the software industry, or, more broadly and more succinctly, “tech.” Below are some words of general advice for students looking forward to their first job in just about any industry. It also includes some specific advice for looking for a first job in Design, Product Management, or Strategy.

Dear Graduating Senior,

I know that finding your first job can be frustrating, especially when you’ll hear a lot of people make it sound so easy! The reality is not very glamorous. It takes time and patience. The good news is that you're doing the right thing: asking people for advice, and staying open to new things.

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Millions of college seniors will graduate in 2016, and many of them are looking for jobs, hoping to line something up before they graduate. Many of them want to break into the software industry, or, more broadly and more succinctly, “tech.” Below are some words of general advice for students looking forward to their first job in just about any industry. It also includes some specific advice for looking for a first job in Design, Product Management, or Strategy.

Dear Graduating Senior,

I know that finding your first job can be frustrating, especially when you’ll hear a lot of people make it sound so easy! The reality is not very glamorous. It takes time and patience. The good news is that you're doing the right thing: asking people for advice, and staying open to new things.

I'll offer you some general advice, and then suggest some courses of action...

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Classification and Design

Us | Taxonomy | The World 

I’ve been interested in classification and taxonomy for a long time. Categories are everywhere, and we use them intentionally or unintentionally to understand a lot of stuff. They’re also great at slithering away when you try to pin them down. In this short series of posts, I want to explore how classification manifests in design, what its relationship is to other popular design concepts like mental models, and what kind of new lens it can provide for understanding how people understand.

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In this article, I explore how thinking about design work explicitly through a lens of classification. We think in categories and so do the tools that we use, and they make suggestions about how we should classify the world. By paying attention to this process of classification, we gain a new tool to see how people understand the world and how our products can, for better or worse, change how they see the world.

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6 before ‘16: Top Design Talks of this Year

Crowd-sourced from everyone  at Cooper, here are some of the most thought provoking and enjoyable design-related talks of 2015: 

Redefining Value: Bridging the Innovation Culture Divide by Nathan Shedroff: 

Rethinking the value that design brings to the table.


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Crowd-sourced from everyone at Cooper, here are some of the most thought provoking and enjoyable design-related talks of 2015: 

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UX vs UI

This is a topic many people have discussed before — the difference between UX and UI. We have all fallen into the trap at one point or another. I often times use the two terms interchangeably to tell my family and friends ‘what exactly it is that I do.’ Sometimes it just seems easier.

But, if you know me in a professional sense, you’ll know that I’m passionate about creating seamless holistic experiences that cross all mediums, platforms, channels etc. One of my biggest pet peeve is when a UXer is encouraged (often times naively) to be an ‘interface designer’ or to take on both roles at the same time.

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This is a topic many people have discussed before — the difference between UX and UI. We have all fallen into the trap at one point or another. I often times use the two terms interchangeably to tell my family and friends ‘what exactly it is that I do.’ 

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Against Infinite Scroll

I was recently part of a Cooper Slack conversation about infinite scrolling navigation.

"I hate infinite scroll," I said. 

"👆," several people responded. 

"But why?" asked someone else.

In my worldview, infinite scroll has three major failings. I’ve listed them here from least to most important. 

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A user experience critique of infinite scrolling as a navigation pattern, based on a Slack conversation with colleagues at Cooper. 

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